10 Reasons Why Ultrabooks will be Cheaper than Traditional Laptops

Posted on 24 January 2012, Last updated on 24 January 2012 by

samsung-series-9-11.6You might think of Ultrabooks as a marketing push by Intel or an attempt to copy the successfully MacBook Air and in some respects you’d be right but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. We’re witnessing a complete change in laptop design, manufacturing, performance, efficiency, weight, aesthetics and features. It brings real advantages to the end user. It also brings advantages to the design and manufacturing process too and, you might be surprised to hear, will reduce the cost of laptops over time.

At the end of the day (circa end of 2013) the manufacturer will end up with a laptop that’s quicker to design, develop and cheaper to manufacture, ship and support than any laptop before it. The advantages aren’t limited to ‘Ultrabooks’ either. Every part of the laptop market should benefit. Here are 10 reasons why.


  1. Small, highly integrated motherboard means quicker and easier system design
  2. Non-replaceable Lithium-Polymer batteries mean more design flexibility, cheaper casings and less safety certification.
  3. All-in-one motherboard design means a shorter production line.
  4. Less components, ports, means lower cost (and sorter production line, better MTBF)
  5. Lighter weight means cheaper storage, shipping and packaging
  6. Sealed unit means less support (and higher customer satisfaction)
  7. Fewer component suppliers means better, easier, quicker OS and software integration and optimisation.
  8. Higher efficiency means cheaper PSU’s, smaller batteries and fans
  9. Fewer product options (mem, storage, GPU) means less SKU’s thus cheaper, streamlined manufacturing and distribution
  10. Marketing subsidy and marketing momentum may mean it’s easier to sell Ultrabooks, pushing numbers up and cost per unit down.

While some of these points may have more impact than others and while the initial cost of developing and producing and Ultrabook may be higher, in the longer term, the Ultrabook ‘process’ means cheaper laptop computing for all.

Note on content delivery and app stores: The subject of content is an important one but not for discussion here. If Microsoft can enable content (videos, books, music, software) delivery through Windows 8 features (Intel are attempting this with AppUp too. Software and Films are already available) there are more cost savings (profit sharing) that will affect the cost of a laptop. Witness what is happening on the Kindle Fire. Let’s talk about this more when Windows 8 has rolled out.

34 Comments For This Post

  1. mark says:

    Sounds like many reasons to not get an ultrabook, haha.

  2. Markbo says:

    I was kinda thinking the same thing. I like the ports and flexibility. Tough call.

  3. Al says:

    Not sure about #6
    Sealed unit means less support (and higher customer satisfaction)

    Why does a sealed unit mean less support and high customer satisfaction?

  4. James says:

    Because it means less things are likely to go wrong.

    Sealed unit prevents tampering, installing of parts the manufacturer hasn’t tested or approved, and reduces exposure of internal components.

    So the company has less to worry about supporting and the customer gets a more reliable system.

  5. Al says:

    If someone installs parts in a non-sealed laptop the warranty is void.

    I also don’t necessarily buy that fact that anything is more reliable just because you can’t open it, its not like people with non sealed laptops are like “I wish I had a sealed laptop because the screws keep falling out and my RAM gets loose”

  6. James says:

    “If someone installs parts in a non-sealed laptop the warranty is void.”

    Incorrect, non-sealed systems allow for things like upgrades. Only if you tamper with areas you aren’t allowed to access then the warranty becomes void.

    Like you can upgrade RAM in most systems without issue. Some systems even give you access to the hard drive, and you’ll still be covered by warranty.

    They just won’t help you if the parts you install are defective, you’d have to get that warranty from whoever sold you those parts.

    This however means the company has to deal with a range of tech support issues with those areas. While a completely sealed unit means everything is off limits and the company doesn’t have to deal with any tech support except defective units.

  7. Michael says:

    There is no doubt that, say, in 5 years time, all notebooks would be ultrabooks. I predict, with the exception of 15.6 inch monster notebooks, all other notebooks would vanish and be replaced by ultrabooks.

    The big question is this. Until economies of scale happen (it would happen eventually by 5 years time) and prices of ultrabooks fall drastically, would you be the guinea pig now and pay a premium for an ultrabook? The premium is not small, its huge. Would the masses pay over $1000 for an ultrabook?

    I doubt many would dare buy something for $1000 now knowing the same thing would be sold for $600 the following year. Why ultrabook sales are so slow is because everybody is having a wait and see attitude, waiting for prices to fall further.

    In anycase, I agree with you Chippy, ultrabooks would be the norm one day, most likely, in about 5 years time. We won’t see fat chunky notebooks anymore.

  8. mickey g. says:

    On #2.
    Batteries are classically the elements that anywhere in a permanently used device will die sooner that anything else (hopefully!!), with a rate of failure of 100% over time, sometimes as soon as 1 year or less. If this new ultrabooks come with non-replaceable batteries… what is the idea for the clients ??? how would we solve it ??? against the normal replaceable ones that take couple of minutes to do it…

  9. James says:

    Batteries usually don’t just die, they wear out first… Like the iPad can lose about 4 hours of its 10+ capacity after about 9 months.

    So for many it’s less a question of when the battery will die but rather when will the run time become too short to be usable first.

    While manufacturers do have an invested interest in a sealed design, as it helps lower costs and increases the rate that new units are purchased.

    However, the demand for all day computing and those who want to be able to extend their run time will likely mean that not all Ultrabooks will be using non-user replaceable batteries or they may opt instead for a docking solution.

    Like the form fitting battery slice options that some business model laptops are already using.

  10. Chippy says:

    Agree. Replaceable batteries will be for niche devices. As long as the battery has 50% battery life after 18 months I think they will get away with sealing them in. There will be complaints from many, but not the majority.

  11. Tsuki says:

    50% at 18 months? A new ultrabook today that lasts 6hr on a charge should last 3 hours a year and a half later?

    That is simply not acceptable for a sealed battery unit. Laptops are generally used for 2-3 years, and at 3 years the battery under normal usage should be at 80%+ original capacity at minimum.

  12. Michael says:

    Don’t also forget the downtime you will have when you send in your ultrabook for battery replacement. In some places, it takes a month before your ultrabook comes back. So much easier the traditional method, just go to the shop, buy a battery and fix it. No down time.

    If Sony could have replaceable batteries in the ultra thin X line a few years back, I see no reason why ultrabooks can’t have it too

  13. James says:

    True, it’s perfectly possible…

    However, the problem is it increases the cost to the system since replaceable batteries need more protection and more space for the docking of the battery, which in turn limits the design options.

    Mind options like lithium polymer batteries can be shaped as needed for sealed designs to maximize space, weight, and costs.

    While the potential explosive nature of lithium batteries if they ever get ruptured means a level of minimal protection if the battery is to be handled by the user.

    Though they are working on ways to make lithium batteries safer that may make those options more flexible soon.

    While by the time Haswell comes out the available space for the battery may become large enough to make it easier to include a removable battery option.

    Along with the niche market of those who demand longer run times may eventually let us see more and more with removable or extendable battery options.

    On the other hand they are also working on making universal standards for Ultrabooks and that may allow for modular design that would make removable batteries a more standard option down the line, but that may have to wait till the 3rd gen models.

  14. Chippy says:

    I doubt any manufacturer is going to go back to removable batteries after having sealed ones but there will he ‘specialist’ devices. Personally i would rather have sealed-in larger capacity batteries.

  15. Archie says:

    Dell’s XPS 13 Ultrabook’s battery can be replaced.
    see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9m8i4z7jqA
    Parts-people.com (specializing in dell) shows you how. The battery is sealed (see video). This is the one hesitation for my making a high end Ultrabook my next laptop to replace my Thinkpad 400s (which was already one of the thinnest & lightest 14″ units a few years ago before Ultrabooks came into being.) I haven’t seen a PC manufacturer provide a battery that will hold a decent charge after 2 years. I’m not sure about the MacAir though I get the perception they put the best battery available in their devices (in terms of being able to hold a charge over time since many of their devices are sealed.) So I’m concern as to the quality of the batteries used in the Ultrabooks. Intel needs to set a stanard in this regard require manufacturers that the batteries in an ultrabook must retain xx% of the original charge after say 2 years, forcing the manufacturers to go with the best batteries. I heard Intel is also attempting to standardize the batteries which could help and make it possible for tech oriented users to open up and replace the battery by unplugging the battery contacts from the laptop (no soldering required).

  16. Michael says:

    I disagree. Many will complain once they see the very high price for such batteries. Very good point mickey. Peole want all day computing and like most notebooks, within one year, one can see the battery depleting to such a level that the user may regret buying an utrabook.

    If you do decide to change your battery, don’t forget the cost of sending your unit in for the manufacturer to replace it. Labour charges etc. In Europe, labour charges are exorbitant. It can even be 100 pounds just to look and open yur computer, excluding the cost of the battery.

    In countries such as the UK, one must factor in the cost of insurance for shipping your unit to the manufacturer.

    I predict there will be a lot of unhappy ultrabook users in a year’s time when they see a sudden drop in the capacity of their battery and decide to change their battery by sending it to the manufacturer.

  17. Adam says:

    I think many of these points have a counter-point that could result in “10 reasons why Ultrabooks cost more”.

    I hope there’s going to be a counter-article much like the “10 reasons to buy an ultrabook” / “10 reasons to not buy an ultrabook” articles from a couple months back.


  18. Chippy says:

    In reality it’s not easy to say that Ultrabooks are expensive. Even at early prices there aren’t any serious competitors outside the category that reach the same efficiency, weight, power, battery life and features. 12 months ago you were paying 50% more. The MBA is the only real challenger and I suspect that will continue to be more expensive than the average Ultrabook.

  19. Adam says:

    All this list does is make me more depressed that Intel and the ultrabook MFGRs are really stiffing us on this generation…

    All of the things in that list apply to any ultrabook-like design regardless of whether it was manufactured in 2011 or 2013; if these are true why is there such a cost premium today? (Besides the obvious higher Intel ULV cpu markup?)


  20. Michael says:

    Tsuki :
    50% at 18 months? A new ultrabook today that lasts 6hr on a charge should last 3 hours a year and a half later?
    That is simply not acceptable for a sealed battery unit. Laptops are generally used for 2-3 years, and at 3 years the battery under normal usage should be at 80%+ original capacity at minimum.

    When it reaches 3 years old, you’d be lucky to even get 1 hour of usage with wifi on.

  21. Chippy says:

    You’re right. 18months might be slightly under the level of acceptability. I know Ultrabook manufacturers are already starting to advertise long-life batteries. Hopefully this won’t be an issue we need to discuss in a few years.

  22. Michael says:

    I noticed the thinner the notebook, the higher the chances of the battery life depleting rapidly. My Samsung NP350 used to give 7 hours, hardly 3 months now, its only giving 5 hours on a full charge. Do observe this on your NP350 Chippy.
    I suppose, it would be worse with ultrabooks.

  23. Chippy says:

    I have only had the np350 for a month. Haven’t noticed any drop yet. Did you use Hardwareinfo to check the max capacity?

  24. Sheil says:

    Amazon now has the NP350U2A for pre-order at $680, which uses the new 17w 1.4 GHz i3-2367M. I wonder how much this will effect battery life & performance?

    It’s only $20 cheaper than the current $700 NP350U2B even though theres a huge difference in the chips wattage/ghz (35w/2.3-2.9ghz).

  25. Chippy says:

    Well spotted. I have the standard voltage version. For the average user it won’t make.much difference in battery life but the clock will be capped at 1.4Ghz compared to 2.2Ghz. That’s quite a difference.

  26. MartMitn says:

    VERY interesting that Samsung is deciding to dump standard voltage CPU’s & go with ULV’s (normally found in Ultrabooks).

    I wonder the reasoning? Maybe they’ve found heat/reliability issues, longer battery life, smaller batteries? Who knows. It’s unlikely it has anything to do with price since ULV’s are usually a bit higher.

  27. Wouter says:

    Chippy, I don’t that much about laptop batteries, going to university next year, I am thinking about an ultrabook.

    However that 18 months 50% battery decline, that just shocks me. If you could write or know an article about battery decline, lifes and replacement, on different types of laptops, I would really appreciate it.

    Engadget have written something about Battery decline and replacement of it in a sealed Macbook in the las IRL (link in the bottom). Well, 30 minutes waiting for a 1 minute replacement of 130 dollar (including battery) is still fine with me, however, other manufactures wont have stores i can go to, so what can i expect? It could be a big plus for the Macbook Air if its battery is still more replacable then those of others (if those batteries really decline 50% in 1,5 year).

  28. Chippy says:

    I’ll see if I can pull together some stats. It might take time though.

  29. Wouter says:

    Wow. That was written way to fast. got used to edit functionalities, so sorry for the horrible English, and the forgotten link.


  30. Tsuki says:

    Chippy :
    I doubt any manufacturer is going to go back to removable batteries after having sealed ones but there will he ‘specialist’ devices. Personally i would rather have sealed-in larger capacity batteries.

    The issue is that these batteries are often smaller than removable ones.

    I have a massive 95whr battery in my X220 that gets 10+ hours life. There is no ultrabook that comes even close either in battery size or battery life.

  31. ludwig says:

    i would also expect prices to go down with increasing variety of products, amd competing with intel – and when the early adopter’s toll is paid :)

  32. william says:

    Thats your top 10 for ultrabooks? Most of those are not even legit points, just a bunch of fluff! Horrible ! I think 8 out of the top 10 are why ultrabooks suck!

  33. Chippy says:

    Clearly a customer for an expensive niche laptop! Care to expanded though?

  34. carzosky says:

    is the battery of ultrabooks replaceable or not?

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    […] ist, kann auch abwarten, wie sich das Ultrabook-Jahr 2012 entwickelt. Manche sagen ja sogar, Ultrabooks werden mal billiger als jetzige Laptops sein. Kleiner Ausblick gefällig? Die spannendsten Ultrabook-Modelle 2012 stellen wir hier vor.Aber wer […]

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